ad hoc City Hall Advisory Committee
August 30, 2017
Com Dev, 51 Winburn Way 1:30 p.m
Committee Members: Boldt, Di Chiro, Finklea, Kramer, Miller, Nickels, Pearce, Richards, Shaw, Thalden
Via Phone: Kenefick
Staff: Fleury, Kathol Morrison, Seltzer
CALL TO ORDER: Di Chiro called the meeting to order.
Changes to the Minutes of the August 16 Committee Meeting were as follows:
- Page 2 – Boldt changed his report as follows:
- ….”and the estimate is close considering it is based on a concept with no detail. Soft costs need to be taken into consideration and we were told everything….”
- ….”figures for the City Hall options could not be verified because the estimator at Vitus Construction is no longer with the company and they can find no records….”
- ….”because of the construction challenges due to its location.”
- Boldt pointed out that some estimates…..”
- Page 2 – Kenefick changed:” Kenefick said it would not be money lost, but money not earned.”
- Page 3 – Kramer changed: “Kramer said it would be silly to retrofit one floor in City Hall but it is typical to retrofit buildings with FRP (Fiber Reinforced Polymer) and concrete steel so you can survive a maximum creditable event. He added that is a practical and reasonable retrofit for City Hall.”
- Page 4 – Kramer added” Consolidation was not considered a priority by the committee and Options 3a and b are unnecessarily costly and not worth our time.”
- Page 5 – Welch had recalculated the votes he had taken at the August 16 meeting and found a few errors, so the tallied votes were changed according to his corrections.
- Page 6 – MOTION was changed to reflect Nickels and Boldt voted nay. Motion carried 9 in favor and 2 nays.
- Page 6 – Boldt changed: ….”within the existing floor plan that were not given sufficient weight. The committee is a voluntary organization.”
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
MOTION by Boldt, second by Pearce to approve the Minutes of the August 16, 2017 ad hoc City Hall Advisory Committee meeting as amended. Carried unanimously.
RETATEMENT OF CHARGE OF THE COMMITTTEE:
Di Chiro said that she met with Karns and Seltzer to review some of the issues that came up at the August 16 meeting. She wanted to revisit the charges of the committee which are reflected on each meeting Agenda. Number one was “to identify the best option for improving/replacing City Hall (meets the work space needs through 2031 and provides reasonable degree of seismic safety for employees).” DiChiro said there are a lot of questions about whether the cost numbers are valid, but the committee’s charge was to accept that they were. She said there had been a lot of discussion at the meetings around the issue of work space for the 2031 needs of the City. However, that determination is a given and is outside of the charge that the committee was given to determine if it is a valid one or not. She said the committee needed to accept the analysis done by the City and recommend the best way to meet those needs. In the final report that goes to the City Council, there will be an opportunity to summarize concerns related to that analysis. However, Di Chiro said the committee’s charge is to find the best option to meet those needs.
Di Chiro added that the second part of the charge directs the committee to find a solution that provides a reasonable degree of seismic safety for employees. She felt the committee had appropriately spent time discussing the best option for doing that. Kramer had raised concerns that the seismic retrofit estimated in the seismic study that the City conducted had a $3 million price tag, and that seemed out of line. Di Chiro had distributed the seismic report to the committee again and referred to page 2 of that study, which had the estimate for the work at $1,363,757 or $176 per square foot. There had also been questions about what methodology was used to arrive at that estimate. Page 2 also listed what elements were considered in coming up with that estimate. She added that the exact details of that upgrade were not enumerated, but many relevant elements were considered in developing the estimate and that is the data that the committee needs to use.
DiChiro had said suggestions can be made in the comments section of the report to the City Council, but it was the Council’s decision to determine the eventual status of City Hall if the committee recommends an option other than rebuilding in the current location. Di Chiro said the committee had several options to consider:
- Work towards consensus on recommending one option
- Try to eliminate one option through consensus and recommend two options for Council consideration – listing the strengths and challenges of each option based on our criteria and leave the eventual decision to the Council.
- If unable to eliminate one option through consensus, keep all three of our current options on the table (use the existing site, Briscoe School and East Main) and again list the strengths and challenges of each option for Council consideration.
Finally, Di Chiro said the committee was asked to determine the amount needed for the identified option. She did not think that is possible with two of the options because, while the committee has cost estimates for the current location, we do not have an accurate assessment of the other two options. If either Briscoe or East Main are part of the final recommendation, we would have to ask Council to conduct a cost estimate on those two sites.
Shaw said that she had looked at the last five years of Council minutes and budget and could not find anywhere it talked about 8+ staff needed. Seltzer said it was in the space needs conducted by ORW and it was not 8+ positions but work stations. Kathol had presented the ORW report in January 2017 to the Council. Kramer said he was at that meeting and there was a lot of discussion and the Council accepted the ORW report and then created the committee. Kenefick said that the 8.5 people did not make a difference to the committee, as we are not designing the building – we are just suggesting a site or sites.
Pearce thought the voting exercise conducted at the last meeting was helpful but that we should not put too much faith in the numbers. Di Chiro thought it was a useful exercise because the committee could consider all options and narrow it down to three – the existing site, the Briscoe site and the East Main site.
REVIEW AND DISCUSSION OF OPTIONS
There has not been a feasibility study or professional assessment done on the costs for Briscoe and the Civic Center. The one estimate we have is for City Hall. The committee’s recommendation would need to include getting a professional assessment for the Briscoe and Civic Center sites. Di Chiro said the committee could make a recommendation on the funding options for the Council to explore and the Council would then make a decision on what to do to come up with the numbers for the bond. Elected officials like to have community input on those decisions. Kramer and Nickels both agreed that the way the process has gone with the number of options on the table, how do we come up with the cost estimates/numbers? Kramer did not think that the numbers could factor in – that the committee was recommending a site and an approach and the City is going
to have to follow up and figure out the numbers. Finklea wondered if the committee could develop a cost range. Nickels said there were really only 3-4 people on the committee that could come up with a cost estimate. Shaw said the best timing for an issue-based election is a mid-term primary election because you have a difference in the profile of who votes versus who votes on a presidential cycle. She said the best chance for passing a bond is in a mid-term primary because you have the lowest voter turnout, in part because non-affiliated voters (NAVS) cannot participate in a partisan race and mid-term primary voters are the most engaged, so you are dealing with a different kind of an audience. When it comes to winning campaigns, apathy is your friend. She added that 80-86% of Ashland casts a Democratic vote, and Democrats tend to vote yes on money issues and Republicans tend to vote no. So, the best cycle for passing a money measure is a mid-term primary because you can dramatically impact the turnout. That means May 2018 and if you miss that cycle you are thrown into other scenarios. Kramer said that the Council gave the committee a set of goals and if we can come up with a solution that has two options of sites it makes it more rational. He added that from Welch’s presentation, we need to have our bond amount two months before the election, which would be March 2018. If a bond is the logical way to do this, the Council will have to refine the numbers to make them real. He felt there was time to do that but did not feel qualified to answer any of the other charges based on what we know. Thalden said that if the committee can come up with an option or options, then the committee can move forward and make it as simple as possible for the Council. Since rebuilding City Hall still out-distanced any other option, we should tell the Council that is what we recommend and then follow with the criteria and the reasons we are recommending that option. We can also mention that the committee considered Briscoe and the Civic Center sites, but neither met the criteria as well and then list the criteria that were not met by those two options.
Di Chiro did not think we could agree on only one option. The City Hall option will impact the design flexibility and parking is a big issue. She added that other people have reflected on the issues of construction and it would be difficult to come to consensus. Kramer suggested that we have our four options (1a, 1b, 4 and 5) and each person can pick their top two and then concentrate on what is left. Kenefick reminded the committee that we do not have to keep everything where it is now – we could move the mayor’s office into ComDev and move Building and Planning somewhere else – we have the flexibility of moving things around. Pearce asked Seltzer to review the non-precise cost estimation for Briscoe and the Civic Center. Kathol had arrived at $8.1 M for Briscoe and that entailed selling ComDev (a $2.5 M offset) and entailed all necessary upgrades and repairs based on the school district’s assessment. The school district had recommended upgrading the kitchen. The estimate did not include partitioning up the building and no interior remodels. Di Chiro said if we did not sell ComDev, we would be looking at about $10.6 M. Pearce said it did not include demolition.
The directions to the people doing that study at the time were to give us the numbers that would make this a safe work environment. What is the minimum we could do to make sure it is safe at Briscoe, not necessarily what is the best thing we could do? Pearce said the school district has a fiduciary responsibility and there would be some cost in purchasing Briscoe. Their business official had come back and said they are not authorized to make those decisions. Seltzer said when Briscoe closed it had an estimated value of $5 M but she did not know if that was still accurate. The Civic Center cost was $11-13 M. The cost estimates were arrived at from the space needs calculated by ORW plus adding on the space at the Civic Center and applying ORW’s assumptions to our space needs and to the Civic Center’s space needs and that is how Kathol came up with $11 M. Right-sizing City Hall and retaining ComDev was estimated at $8.5 M.
Finklea said that the existing site at City Hall does not have enough space to meet the 2030 needs. However, we could rebuild it with three floors and a basement and it would meet the space needs of the City combined with ComDev. Kathol said that if we keep both buildings, then the space needs could be met. Thalden said that ComDev is not efficiently used and when City Hall is more structurally sound, you could use the space available more efficiently. Seltzer asked Kathol to clarify between options 1a and 1b. Option 1a is if we rebuild City Hall from the ground up and you are looking at $8.5 M. Option 1b is you retain the shell and rebuild or reconfigure inside at $9.7 M. Kathol said 1a and 1b are essentially the same, but 1b retained the facade, which accounted for the $1.2 M difference.
Boldt asked why preserve the façade? Nickels agreed. Kramer said the façade is historic and the building is listed on the National Historic Registry, but said there is no way it is going to cost $1.2 M to restore it – they are best guesses – not real numbers. He thought the design phase can decide whether to retain the stucco. The committee can give the Council direction to keep City Hall downtown and they will figure it out. Shaw said that no money has been put aside for the project by the City. Kramer said there are small grants from the state to preserve community owned buildings. Pearce added that the tax abatement does not help the City much. If a building is on the National Registry there are limitations and if there is an adverse effect, you have to mitigate it. Boldt said that on our original criteria, being acceptable to the voters was taken off, but if you do not do something constructive with preserving City Hall, there would be a lot of opposition. Di Chiro said we could recommend to sell or rent it out. Kramer said the Council can decide whatever they want – the committee presents a plan that meets the City’s needs and is ultimately fundable. However, If the Council decides to do something that removes City Hall from the Plaza, he felt it would fail. Kramer wanted to retain the civic use in the existing building.
Committee members then went around the table and gave their first and second choice (if they had a second choice) from options:
- 1a - Rebuild Existing City Hall ($8.5 M)
- 1b – Restructure existing City Hall and retain the stucco veneer ($9.7 M)
- Option 4 – Courts/Civic Center
- Partitioned (retains ComDev) $10 M
- Centralized (incorporates ComDev) $13 M
- Option 5 – Briscoe School $8.1 M
Kramer – Option 1a and 1b, which he felt were the same thing and the most sellable, and then Option 5. He thought that Briscoe offered a visionary opportunity for the community and staff could relocate there during the City Hall construction.
Pearce – 1a and 1b were his favorites. There is still a parking concern but he believes there are other ways to address parking downtown. He thought that Briscoe was a fabulous opportunity but very expensive. Keeping the civic use on the plaza is important and it makes the project more sellable to the voters.
Thalden – 1a and 1b were his only choice and keep City Hall downtown. Briscoe was too expensive.
Richards – 1a and 1b - She felt those two options fit the committee’s six criteria. There is a parking issue, but then it seems there is never enough parking. She loves Briscoe as an option but it would take a lot to make it efficient. She suggests Briscoe be a City-owned property. Briscoe is a historical building and there would be unknowns if it was sold to the public.
Shaw – she knows there are real problems with City Hall and it would be a struggle constructing it on the plaza. She felt that the bigger issue was to keep City Hall downtown. It is important to integrate your government with a part of the community. Shaw felt it was critical to have City Hall where it is – we are a small town and it honors history. We want to encourage our residents to come eat and shop downtown and she thought there should be some parking spots set aside for business with the City. In her twelve years as mayor, the City developed Lithia Way, the Elks parking, the parking at OSF, the skating rink and removed the ability for City employees to park downtown and still there was not enough parking. She loved the idea of Briscoe and thought the Council should work with the school district about what happens to Briscoe. She chose 1a and 1b.
Kenefick – Rename ComDev as City Hall and build a building on East Main, which gives a lot of flexibility for the next 100 years. We own the land and there is room for parking and the rebuild could include the EOC in it. That is the best use of the money.
Boldt – Option 1 does include some modification to ComDev if you can get space needs out of it. The Civic Center is a good option and the presence of the City downtown is good. If you have a major earthquake, the buildings downtown are gone. There is a lot of cost with the Briscoe option because the acquisition cost has
to be taken into consideration. He also felt there was not enough information on the Briscoe option. Option 1 includes improvements to ComDev.
Finklea – Option 1 or 4. Build a new City Hall on the same site but it is incumbent on the Council to make that choice after more financial analysis. He likes the Briscoe option. In Redmond they built a new City Hall in an old school building. He thought that Briscoe should stay with the City if possible. His first choice is to stay with the existing site and his second choice is going to the Civic Center.
Nickels – Briscoe is a historic building. He worked with the architect who initially designed the building. It would be a good place to locate City Hall. It is close enough to walk downtown and preserves the Briscoe neighborhood. His second choice is the Civic Center, which was where City Hall was supposed to go originally.
Miller – 1a and 1b – without the façade and then Briscoe. Up until the last committee meeting, Miller thought Briscoe was the best option and thought it was going to give us the square footage with room to expand. He has talked to a number of people and no one really cares about City Hall being downtown – they are concerned about taxes. So, improve ComDev and City Hall. Briscoe had been his first pick, but he needed more information.
Di Chiro – Civic Center – a newly designed building that takes into account it can be built with the 2020 goals in mind. It is more convenient. People live throughout the City and the Civic Center is more centrally located. We would make sure we have a functional building with flexibility. Second choice was Briscoe, but felt it was cost prohibitive. We can utilize ComDev and a new building for the next 100 years.
After input, there was not consensus, but the majority chose 1a and 1b.
DISCUSSION OF PROCESS TO DEVELOP RECOMMENDATION FOR THE CITY COUNCIL
Di Chiro said that the committee was going to make a recommendation to the City Council that says we have carefully considered all options, developed a list of criteria and do we put out all 3 options, or vote and have a minority report? Kramer and Nickels agreed that there would not be consensus. Kramer thought we could make a prioritized recommendation and did not think it was going to be as cut and dry as the Council and staff thought. We do not have the information needed. Kramer said that if he was to make a
recommendation, it was that Council explore the 3 options and explore acquiring Briscoe with the school district. It the committee ends up recommending City Hall, everyone has identified construction and relocation as big problems. If you secure Briscoe, you could relocate people there. There will never be an opportunity again for the City to purchase an entire City block. If we go for a $8 M bond to build City Hall and if we buy Briscoe, it is more palatable. Di Chiro asked the committee if they wanted to vote on the options and have the top two or proceed with all three? We can tell Council that the vast majority felt that rebuilding City Hall was the correct answer and minority opinions were that it should be Briscoe or the Civic Center. That is what played out and that is what we should tell the Council. It is more valuable for the Council to hear the discussion – there are tradeoffs with all of the options.
Di Chiro said that we need to design a report. The format of that report would be to take each of the 3 locations, summarize some of the discussion heard from the Minutes and put the advantages and disadvantages for each site. We need to take something to the City Council that is actionable and doable like an Executive Summary. It would reflect that 8 of the 11 committee members were in favor of the existing site of pursuing rebuilding/restructuring City Hall and we can add comments on Briscoe and the Civic Center. Rebuilding City Hall involves that the use of ComDev would be more efficient. There is value seen by the committee in keeping a civic presence downtown. There is not unanimous consensus but 8 committee members felt there needed to be a civic presence downtown. Nickels said we could delineate what second choices are for people. Seltzer said when City Hall was being redesigned, Utilities was moved to the Grove and people loved it because it was easy to get to. You could move Finance if there is a second place for people to be moved to. Di Chiro added that we did hear from City staff their need to consolidate services. We are not ignoring that concern but we need to do a good study and move people so those that interact are in the same building. Seltzer said it was for others to figure out if there is a way to improve the functionality and efficiency with a new City Hall and ComDev.
Seltzer said she counted 8 votes for 1a and 1b, 2 for the Civic Center and 1 for Briscoe. Di Chiro and Pearce will work with City staff to develop a draft report, send it to the committee to review and meet again on September 13 at 1:30pm in the Siskiyou Room of ComDev to review the report.
Jim Young said he has a contract with the Briscoe art wing. He sent a map to committee members showing Briscoe as Ashland’s new City Hall. He is waiting on an assessment to see what a key property exchange would look like. Young said with the gym, he felt it would take the Briscoe property to 33,000 square feet. There are 52 onsite and 38 street spaces for a total of 90 spaces for parking. That parking would make it a lot easier for the community and for staff. He suggested making Briscoe a 33,000 square feet City Hall with everything on one level.
Sharon Javna voted in favor of Briscoe as the site for the new City Hall. She felt the committee did not know the cost but was ruling it out because of the cost and she did not understand that logic. She thought the committee did not know the cost of any of the alternatives and that the City Council should be informed of the criteria that each site meets, but be told we do not know the cost because there has not been an assessment done and we do not know if the school district would decide to give the City Briscoe or not. Leave the cost off the table and focus on the other criteria, all of which are valid. If you do that, Briscoe rises to the top. There is parking, the park and it is downtown – Javna felt it was so close to downtown in her view. Considering those factors and leaving cost out of it is the way to go.
Di Chiro adjourned the meeting at 3:25pm. Boldt added that the committee has adverse views but will come up with a viable solution and he commended everyone for their hard work.
Shelly D. Hensarling